On a wild day of weather Saturday, the Americans stayed in control at the Presidents Cup.
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Tiger Woods finally won a point Saturday morning, then couldn’t buy a putt in the afternoon. Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson finally lost a match. And just when the International team was on the verge of keeping it close, the Americans won the last two matches.
A long, wet day at Royal Melbourne finally ended when Jim Furyk won his fourth straight match, teaming with Nick Watney for a 1-up win over Adam Scott and Ernie Els.
That gave the Americans a 13-9 lead, putting them in position to win the Presidents Cup for the fourth straight time ahead of Sunday’s 12 singles matches.
The biggest comeback in this event was three points in 2003 by the United States, and that was for a tie in South Africa. The greatest rally in any cup competition was at Brookline in 1999 at the Ryder Cup, when the Americans overcame a four-point deficit.
The Americans were assured of leading the Presidents Cup after a 4-1 decision in foursomes Saturday morning, when Woods and Dustin Johnson won a match and two American teams remained perfect.
Hopeful of building the lead in the fourball matches in the afternoon, the International team fought back.
K.T. Kim holed a 6-foot par putt on the 18th hole to give him and Y.E. Yang a 1-up win over Woods and Johnson. Woods missed nine putts from about the 15-foot range or closer, including one on the last hole that would have earned a halve. Woods was assured of his first losing record in the Presidents Cup since 1998, which also was at Royal Melbourne.
The International team picked up two more wins to capture a session for the first time since singles in 2007.
Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel handed Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson their first loss of the week. The Americans made only one birdie, a poor effort in fourballs even in a cold, steady rain as the wind picked up. Geoff Ogilvy and K.J. Choi hung on for a 1-up win over Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar.
As the temperatures kept plunging — some 25 degrees by the end of the day — the Americans heated up, along with the emotions.
Jason Day celebrated a 30-foot birdie putt on the 17th to seemingly stay in the match, only for Hunter Mahan to bury his birdie putt from just outside 20 feet for a 2-and-1 win over Day and Aaron Baddeley.
Mahan flung his putter to the ground when it dropped and let out a roar.
”This is an Australian team we were playing here,” Mahan said. ”You heard the crowd, so to win like that, it feels good.”
Ernie Els and Adam Scott put up a strong fight in the final match, both holing key putts down the stretch. Scott missed a 12-footer to square the match on the 17th, though, and missed from 25 feet on the last hole to allow Furyk and Nick Watney a 1-up win.
Furyk is leading the way for the United States, a winner in all four of his matches. He and Phil Mickelson went to 3-0 as a team after winning their foursomes match Saturday morning. US captain Fred Couples decided to rest Mickelson for Sunday’s finale.
That ended a streak of 32 consecutive matches played at the Presidents Cup for Mickelson.
Next up is 12 singles matches, with the United States needing only four-and-a-half points to keep the cup.
”We’ve got a shot,” Scott said. ”It’s going to have to be a remarkable day tomorrow, but we have a shot at it. That’s all we ask for. It’s not over.”
Woods has played well, except on the greens. He carried the load for the second time in a loss, as Johnson contributed only one hole in their fourballs loss in the afternoon. Even so, Woods has a 1-3 record, matching his career-low in these competition. He also was 1-3 going into singles at Royal Melbourne in 1998, along with the Ryder Cup in 1999 and 2004.
Even the one point he won didn’t come easily.
He and Johnson trailed early in the match until winning consecutive holes with pars as Scott and Choi struggled. Woods and Johnson went 1 up on the 13th when the International team conceded before reaching the green, and the Americans went 2 up on the next hole after Scott and Choi made another bogey.
Woods closed out the match with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th.
”It was a day of patience,” Woods said. ”The weather was kind of iffy, the greens are another different speed. They’ve got some pretty good, little tricky pins. I felt Dustin and I were playing well. We just kept putting on the heat, and eventually one would fall.”
The International team picked up its only point behind Els and Ryo Ishikawa. They went 1 up on the 16th when Bill Haas missed a par putt on the 16th. Kuchar hit his approach on the 17th within a foot for a conceded birdie, but Ishikawa halved the hole with an 18-foot birdie putt as Els raised his hands in delight and wrapped his arms around the 19-year-old from Japan.
Ishikawa holed a 6-foot par putt on the last to secure the 1-up win.